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HEALTH > KEY TO HEALTH > Part I : Intoxicants
Intoxicants
The intoxicants used in India might be taken as the following: alcohol, bhang, ganja, tobacco and opium. Alcohol or liquor include the country made liquor and arak, besides the large quantity of liquor imported from foreign countries. All these should be strictly prohibited. Alcohol makes a man forget himself and while its effects last, he becomes utterly incapable of doing anything useful. Those who take a drinking, ruin themselves and ruin their people. They lose all sense of decency and propriety.
There is a school who favour limited and regulated consumption of alcohol and believe it to be useful. I have not found any weight in their argument. Even if we accept their view for a moment, we have still to face the fact that innumerable human beings cannot be kept under discipline. Therefore it becomes our duty to prohibit alcoholic drinks even if it were only for the sake of this vast majority.
Parsis have strongly supported the use of tadi. They say that although tadi is an intoxicant it is also a food and even helps to digest other foodstuffs. I have carefully examined this argument and have read a fair account of literature pertaining to this subjects. But I have been a witness of the terrible straits to which tadi reduces the poor and therefore I have come to the conclusion that it can have no place in man's food.
The advantages, attributed to tadi, are all available from other foodstuffs. Tadi is made out of khanjur juice. Fresh khanjur juice is not an intoxicant. It is known as nira in Hindustani and many people have been cured of their constipation as a result of drinking nira. I have taken it myself though it did not act as a laxative with me. I found that it had the same food value as sugarcane juice. If one drinks a glass of nira in the morning instead of drinking tea, etc., he should not need any thing for breakfast. As in the case of sugarcane juice, palm juice can be boiled to make jaggery. Khanjuri is a veriety of palm tree. Several verities of palm grow spontaneously in our country. All of them yield drinkable juice. As nira gets fermented very quickly, it has to be used up immediately and therefore on the spot. Since this condition is difficult to fulfill except to a limited extent, in practice, the best use of nira is to convert it into palm jaggery. Palm jaggery can well replace sugar-cane jaggery. In fact some people prefer it to the latter. One advantage of palm jaggery over sugar-cane jaggery is that it is less sweet and therefore one can eat more of it. The All Indian Village Association has done a great deal to popularize palm jaggery, but much remains to be done. If the palms that are used for making tadi are used for making jaggery, India will never lack sugar and the poor will be able to get good jaggery for very little money. Palm jaggery can be converted into molasses and refined sugar. But the jaggery is much more useful than refined sugar. The salts present in the jaggery are lost in the process of refining. Just as refined what flour and polished rice lose some of their nutritive value because of the loss of the pericarp, refined sugar also loses some of the nutritive value of the jaggery. One may generalize that all foodstuff are richer if taken in their natural state as far as possible.
Taking of tadi I naturally began to talk of nira and from that I went on to the topic of jaggery. But let us return to liquor for the moment.
None of the public workers perhaps have the same bitter experience of the evils of the drinking as I have had. In South Africa, most of the Indians going there as indentured labourers were addicted to drinking. The law there did not in my time permit Indians to take liquor to their houses except under a medical certificate. They could go to the drinking booths and drink as much as they liked. Even the women had fallen victims to this evil habit. I have seen them in the most pathetic condition. One who has seen those scenes near the public bars will never support drinking.
African Negroes were not given to drinking originally. Liquor may be said to have simply ruined them. Large numbers of Negro labourers are seen to waste all their earnings in drinking so that their lives become devoid of any grace.
And what about Englishmen? I have seen respectable Englishmen falling in the gutter under the effect of alcohol. There is no exaggeration in this statement. During the war many Englishmen had to leave the Transvaal. Some of them were taken in my home. One of them was an engineer and a good man in every way, when not under the effects of alcohol. He was a theosophist. Unfortunately , he was addicted to drink and lost all control over himself when he was drunk. He tried hard to give up the habit, but as far as I know he never succeeded.
On my return from South Africa to India I had a similar painful experience of the evils of drink. Several Princes have been and are being ruined by liquor. What applies to them applies more or less to many a rich youth. The condition of labour as a result of taking alcohol is also pitiable. That, as a result of such bitter experience, I have become a staunch opponent of alcohol, will not surprise the readers.
In a nut shell, alcohol one physically, morally, intellectually and economically.